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Tutoring program gets boost from State Farm

January 20, 2011

Seven-year-old Daniel jumped up from his chair, shot his arms into a V for victory sign and announced to his classmates: “I so get this.”

He was cheering about sorting out even and odd numbers with the help of his after-school tutor Candice Warner, 20, an Arizona State University speech pathology major. “In my classroom I have trouble with odds and evens, but now I get it,” he said with an ever-widening grin.

Nearby other tutors engaged children in reading with colorful books and used a novel approach to teaching addition and subtraction with a rousing game of hop scotch.

The 25 part-time tutors work with 38 disadvantaged kindergarteners through sixth graders, and another 15 middle school boys at the cheery Salvation Army Citadel in central Phoenix, one of seven tutoring sites. In all, 292 children are enrolled in the seven tutoring sites with 170 ASU students participating in the after-school programs each semester, not including student staff.

The children are from nearby K-8 Kenilworth Elementary where principal Eduardo Flores credits the ASU tutoring program with students’ “overall success.”

“It is not only the tutoring component,” he said, “It’s the one-on-one aspect that has really helped us boost academic achievement.”

Flores anticipates an enduring partnership with ASU and the Salvation Army, and credits Kenilworth’s “strong teachers” for their commitment to education.

Continuing the tutoring program, he said, is part of the fabric of what we do as a school, not only for our students, but for the school community at Kenilworth.

The tutors come from a variety of backgrounds, majors and interests. But they are part of the University Service Learning (USL) program in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, which is designed to engage students in community service. The students either enroll in a USL 402 course to receive credit or participate in a work study program for pay. The course is a structured tutoring internship that satisfies ASU’s General Studies Cultural Diversity requirement and includes attending class and completing assignments, along with community service.

ASU’s longstanding commitment to service learning has resulted in a $20,000 State Farm Insurance grant to be shared by the seven tutoring sites. USL Program Manager Deborah Ball, said the money will be used for books, supplies and other needs.

“State Farm has a longstanding commitment to service learning,” said Gus Miranda, the insurance company’s media relations representative.

“The important thing to us is that community service is linked to classroom curriculum,” Miranda said, adding that he is confident the funds will be used in an effective educational manner.

State Farm has demonstrated its confidence in ASU by donating $800,000 to various programs over the last decade.

“We want to ensure students have opportunities to apply academic knowledge and skills to fulfilling unmet needs in the community,” said Ball.  “Students are enabled to contribute to social change to an array of community causes from tutoring to hunger and homelessness at a number of partner community agencies and schools.”

ASU senior, Summer Knoll, 21, a secondary education major in ASU’s Teachers College, landed her internship in 2007.  From San Dimas, Calif., Knoll said the experience has sharpened her teaching skills, and exposed her to the dark realities of poverty.

“These children depend on food boxes,” she said. “I’ve never seen that before. And some kids are too big for their shoes.

“I really feel this has helped me grow and shaped how I will interact with students when I begin my student teaching.”

Other young tutors say their experience with children will mesh with their careers.

Brittany Watts, 21, a business broadcast major, began tutoring in 2008, her sophomore year, and has worked up to a supervisor position.

“I needed a job and have a passion for working with kids,” she said. “I make lesson plans, and we work on crafts that are creative and academically relevant.”

Watts said tutoring has seeded new ideas for producing stories that shine a brighter light on poverty and the plight of children.

And Warner, the speech pathology major, said she has “noticed some speech problems,” among the children, possibly a first step in getting them help.

Chelsie (CQ) Hancock, 22, of northern Calif. expects to finish her master’s degree in public administration in 2012. She manages three tutoring sites and is a liaison between parents, Salvation Army and Kenilworth.

She said her career in community development will consider the plight of the poor, and their struggles in school.

Surrounded by “high academic standards” Hancock said she is shocked by “the low academic level of these children. They are very far behind.”

Hancock, said Kenilworth Principal Flores, is doing “an absolute phenomenal job,” as liaison between ASU the Salvation Army and Kenilworth.

Parents and teachers alike have high praise for the tutors, who they say have ignited their children’s interest and success in school.

On written evaluations parents said their children are happier going to school, reading better, more confident, and improving their grades.

Classroom teachers welcomed tutors’ “extra help,” and noticed new confidence in students’ ability to work independently, take pride in learning and turning homework in on time.

In another room, Kenilworth middle school boys squished Play-Doh into cars and motorcycles, overseen by young male tutors, like Abel Aguirre, 20, genetics major.  The boys, who say they have had little interest in education, are learning new lessons from their tutors.

Charles, 12, said tutors tell them that “everybody can get along,” and that “this guy (Aguirre) told me to believe in myself.”

“I told him that he can decide his own future,” Aguirre said.

By Carol Sowers,

Jenni Thomas
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College